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Oregon Prison Superintendent Pleads Guilty to Drunk Driving and Interfering With Arrest

by Panagioti Tsolkas

In Oregon Circuit Court for Deschutes County on November 16, 2021, the newly appointed Superintendent of the state’s Deer Ridge Correctional Institution (DRCI), Randy Ray Gilbertson, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of Interfering With a Peace Officer during a drunk-driving arrest in Bend two months earlier. He had previously pleaded guilty to Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUI), which is also a misdemeanor charge, on September 15, 2021.

But Gilbertson, 46, will serve no time and pay no fine on the later conviction, and the earlier one will never be entered and the charge dismissed if he successfully completes a diversion program within a year.

He was pulled over around 2 a.m. on August 19, 2021, when a Bend Police Department (BPD) officer saw his pickup weaving across the road with no headlights, according to BPD Lt. Juli McConkey. As cops tried to conduct a sobriety test, they said Gilbertson ran from them and then refused to yield his arm to their control when he was caught.

Following his arrest, Gilbertson, who police said is also known as Randy Hutchens, was placed on paid administrative leave, continuing to collect his monthly salary of $11,168 while DOC investigated the matter. His application for court-appointed counsel at state expense was denied, after which he was represented by attorney Taylor Stichauf Hale of the Gilroy Napoli Short Law Group. Richard Ackley, a long-time DRCI employee, was named the prison’s acting superintendent.

Upon pleading guilty to the DUI charge, Gilbertson was allowed to enter a diversion program. The court withheld entry of judgment of conviction pending completion of the program, which is anticipated to take 12 months and cost him a $490 fee. At that point, if he successfully completes the program requirements, no conviction will be entered, the charge will be dismissed and the arrest record expunged.

For his guilty plea to the misdemeanor charge of interfering with a peace officer, Gilbertson received a discharged sentence on the same date, meaning no jail time, and no fine. A third charge, Fleeing or Attempting to Elude a Police Officer, was dismissed. See: State of Oregon v. Gilbertson, Ore. Cir. (Cty. of Deschutes), Case No. 21-CR-40251.

Gilbertson began work at DRCI on August 1, 2021, shortly before the incident. He has been employed by the state Department of Corrections since 1999 and previously worked at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario, just across the state line from his home in Payette, Idaho.

The arresting officer in his case was listed on BPD reports as Cpl. Josh Spano, who made news the same month he nabbed the prison chief when he agreed to stop sporting a large key fob bearing the Greek phrase molon labe, which roughly translates to “come and take them” and is popular with far-right anti-government groups suspicious of gun-control legislation. An internal investigation cleared Spano of any involvement with “extremist, racist, or anti-government groups,” according to BPD Chief Mike Krantz. 

Additional sources: Bend Bulletin, Malheur Enterprise, Oregon Public Broadcasting

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Related legal case

State of Oregon v. Gilbertson